Archive for October, 2009


Skin: Surface, Substance, and Design

October 28, 2009

Lupton, Ellen. Skin: Surface, Substance, and Design. Princeton Architectural Press: New York 2002

Skin is a “richly responsive substance that modulates the meaning, function, and dimension of things. An interesting thought expressed by the author, and that has been said by others, is that our exterior is dead, and so anything we touch we touch with what is dead. Design is said to perform at the intersection of life and death, body and product. In fact, humans and their skin are becoming increasingly cyborg, with prosthetic limbs, cell phones, etc. Skin as a system poses many possibilities for performance and it is worth taking a new look at the organ and how people interact through it.

Other chapters include:

Artificial Skin – Skin is being manufactured, and it is being studied how to do this on a greater level, as with many other organs.

Digital Skins – Skin is being designed using computers, for architecture, product design, health professions, etc.

Beauty, horror, and biotechnology – The skin is the most easily manipulated part of the human body. This cyborg has already emerged, but new technologies are being used, such as garments incorporating safe sex devices, or just plastic surgery.

Vessels and Membranes – The skin is a ‘surreal double’ for the human body. This has lead to the development of covers and wraps that posit something very different from that which they cover.

Intelligence and Touch – The skin is our primary sense organ; it is the “plane of contact between people and things”. Some of the examples react, others are interacted with.

Artificial light and artificial life – electricity is said to be the blood of the cyborg. This electricity brings objects to life, often with light.

Padding and Protection – The skin holds within it a complex and vital padding that shapes the overall form. Designers are taking this to the extreme and experimenting with the layers of protection in a skin.

Warps and Folds – Skin hangs or clings to the body in varying ways. Fashion and architecture find beauty in these wrinkles and creases.


Extreme Textiles: Designing for High Performance

October 27, 2009

McQuaid, Matilda.  Extreme Textiles: Designing for High Performance.  Princeton Architectural Press, New York


The idea of “materiality” often overlooks textiles, even though they are some of the most performative materials available.  They have a wide and dynamic range of uses in virtually every science.  This book is showcasing the exhibition at Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum of the same name.  It gives examples of textiles that are stronger, faster, lighter, smarter, and safer than most would imagine.  A key point is that they are not designed to be aesthetically pleasing, but may be visually arresting due in whole to their texture, precision, detail, etc.  Some examples of these textiles are wing suits (lighter), carbon-fiber cars (faster), tire-cord fabric (stronger), Kevlar (safer), and robotic rope (smarter).

The processes which are used to make strong textiles include weaving, braiding, knitting, embroidery, and nonwovens.  These are used to produce varying rigidity, flexibility, and for implantation.  Architecture is typically known to use fabrics as light materials, in tensile structures.  This is being challenged by the possibilities of carbon-fiber in structures, rigidizable structures, and many more.  Textiles are also highly involved in aeronautical pursuits, such as NASA’s use of textiles as thermal insulation material, parachutes, space-suits, and the structures of space vehicles.  Smart textiles are also growing in use and possibility, as information displays, sensors, and input devices.  The electronic fibers are simply part of the fabric of the textile.  This process makes textiles virtually unlimited in their possibilities of use.


Cyborg by Marie O’Mahony

October 14, 2009

O’Mahony, Marie.  Cyborg. Thames & Hudson Inc: New York, NY 2002.

This text suggests that many experts  expect “the next big change in our evolution to arise from sophisticated mechanical or electronic modifications.”  O’Mahony questions the ethics of artificial intelligence, and how it might affect how future.  There are many good uses for technology; it is its misuse which can lead to our destruction.

Technology is primarily thought of as an augmentation or as a symbiote to humans, but it is this relationship which technology questions itself.  This text gives many examples of the uses of technology, including advanced technology of our time, but also the simple mechanics and/or man-made machines that have been used throughout time.  Their construction or origin isn’t what it most important; what is important is its use.  It prolongs life or eternally extends it.  It allows humans to go places they could not go alone.  It allows us to do much more than otherwise.

The text is much less a solution or set of answers; it is more a set of questions.  How will machines change in the future?  How will the role of machines change?  Will our master-servant relationship remain the same?  What will humans be empowered to do in the future?


A neat idea

October 10, 2009


Some other sources

October 10, 2009

Koerner, Robert M. and Joseph P. Welsh.  Construction and Geotechnical Engineering Using Synthetic Fabrics.  Wiley-Interscience Publication: New York, NY 1980

Fabrics in construction are either woven or nonwoven.  Their uses include separation, reinforcement, drainage, erosion control, forms, and impermeable fabrics.  Because of the nature of a fabric, it has many uses, and there are many more to be discovered.  This book does not really speak to the integration of fabrics in innovative ways.  It is also too old to contain very useful information

AWESOME website with links and information about interactive textiles

Great website for theory of future architecture

Very interesting adaptable architecture with the ‘nano-house’, however it interacts with the environment, not people.

potentially valuable resource

The first source with examples of interactive textiles in an architectural application.

A few years back, company founders Stan Swallow and Asha Peta Thompson created a process of weaving electrical circuits into fabrics such as cotton, wool and polyester. Previous technologies involved fusing multiple layers of cloth. Their fabric, by contrast, is a flat piece of cloth that looks like any other. Of course, it isn’t. Woven with conductive fibres and connected to an energy source such as a battery, this high-tech fabric can incorporate heating elements to warm a glove, say, or use sensors that respond to pressure to make a computer keyboard from a piece of cloth. Soon after inventing the technology, the founders patented the process and started a company.

Lots of different fabrics, but only in the traditional sense

Calico fabric as a food preserver

recycled fabrics for interesting uses…

Buzz off fabrics are bad for the environment

sun protection in clothing

Awesome uses!!!!

Anti-tank fabric armor

fabrics that emit light…but with a battery

flexible water storage bladders for the military

Some cool uses for fabrics

super-green fabrics


2 Books

October 10, 2009

Seymour, Sabine.  Fashionable Technology.  SpringerWeinNew York: Austria 2008

This text is an initiation into fashionable technology.  FT combines ‘hard’ technology and ‘soft’ textiles.  The author poses that since clothing is our second skin, it should be responsive to it.  The book is mostly an inspirational and imaginative picture book, but there is actually a bit of theory and good information.  It is all about clothing, but the technologies are applicable to any use of textiles.

This book has many, many sources that are all online and have to do with cutting edge projects.


Theoretical Discourse

-Fashionable Technology: the intersection of design, fashion, science, and technology

These combine wearables that combine aesthetics with functional technology

The unlimited potential of these garments as communication and other dynamic ‘amplifiers of fantasy’.


Wearable technology must also be publicly acceptable, or else it does not fit the context


Physical functions or social or psychological functions

‘Second skin’

There is a range of functional to expressive wearables

-Degree of Body & Technology integration




-Technology: the weaving process corresponds to the 0 and 1 binary logic of computer circuitry

-Wearable computing

These are interactive and operational that are controlled and on the person of the user

-Embedded Technologies: application based on context

-Inputs: actively by the user, or passively by the environment

-Textile sensors

Perfect for integration into textiles.  Close to the body to work.

-Embedded sensors


Garments can affect all of our senses


This can now occur through technology

-Ubiquitous Computing

‘Pervasive computing’; In clothing it can truly be always there

-Wireless Communication

A serious list of possibilities

-On the body

“PAN” – personal area network


-Electronic Textiles

A textile substrate that incorporates capabilities for sensing, communication, power transmission, and interconnection technology that allow for their connection through fabric.

-Nanotechnology and Microfibers

This is molecular technology that can be applied post production or during the manufacturing process


Technology in which the properties of nature are mimicked.


-Alternative energy

Solar, body energy..but this sustainable approach has a long ways to go

-Garment Construction

-Design Considerations

Based on body ergonomics, perception, functionality, technology, materials, energy, and environmental impact

-Garment Interfaces


Changeable nature



The nature of fashion wearables requires the integration of multiple disciplines

-Life Cycles

A match of the life cycles must be made.

-Recycling and health

Batteries are NOT a good system

Kurzwell, Ray.  The Age of Spiritual Machines.  Viking; New York, NY 1999

Kurzwell discusses the inexorably evolutionary expansion of intelligence.  The point of the text is that intelligence is not a human trait, but something that is beyond our understanding and a force of its own.  Evolution is written of as if it were alive and sentient, but also that it is inexorable.

Kurzwell explains the history of the universe; he discusses the relationship of time to chaos, which is that time slows during the absence of chaos, and accelerates during chaos.  This is connected with Kurzwell’s law of accelerated return, which suggests an exponential growth in intelligence.

Computers are intelligent tools; they are an inevitable creation of evolution.  They are not separate from humans, but connected, and in the future will be reconnected, literally, with their creators.  Humans and computers will be more intertwined than ever imagined.  Their power is currently being measured in calculations, but this and other measures are not sufficient to measure how intelligent they are.  The boundaries will be blurred, and simulations, reality, will be questioned.

There is an inexorable movement towards higher and higher intelligence.  Computers are part of this evolution.  We still have the power to shape our future and our future technology; how will we choose to grow?  Intelligence may overcome the natural forces of the universe by altering the rules themselves.  How will we define human?  How will we define intelligence?


A beginning

October 10, 2009

This is the first post in a blog of research on interactive textiles.

Stay tuned for summaries and bibliographies.